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Lewis legislators tour former Lyons Falls mill site


LYONS FALLS — A group of Lewis County legislators on Wednesday got an up-close look at the redevelopment effort at the former paper mill here — and the extent of work that remains.

“It was a learning experience to see it first-hand,” said Legislature Chairman Michael A. Tabolt, R-Croghan, after he and four colleagues toured the old Lyons Falls Pulp & Paper mill.

The visit should prove especially beneficial to members of the legislative Economic Development Committee, which regularly discusses the redevelopment project.

James A. Durkish, north country representative for state Sen. Joseph A. Griffo, R-Rome, also took the tour, with Lewis County Development Corp. President Lawrence L. Dolhof and county Economic Development Director Eric J. Virkler serving as guides.

Several of the mammoth brick buildings on the property, including the steam building and primary manufacturing building, are slated for demolition, and the presence of some asbestos will increase that cost, Mr. Dolhof said.

However, members of the development corporation, which owns the old mill and is working to redevelop it as a business park, are hoping to use at least some of the old brick as hard fill on site and to recoup as much as $1 million from scrap metal removed during the demolition process, he said.

The main building — which Mr. Dolhof said contains five stories, including at least one below the level of the adjacent Black River — has holes in its concrete floors, and a portion of its back wall has collapsed, leaving it open to the elements.

The development corporation, through the state’s regional economic development funding process, was awarded $330,000 in 2011 and an additional $1 million in December for the redevelopment project, which is expected to cost about $5 million and is being managed by the Development Authority of the North Country.

Officials said that 22 companies have shown some interest in the demolition project, and bids are due July 10.

Applied Biorefinery Sciences, a spinoff company from research conducted at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, has been considering the site for a proposed wood-chip chemical extraction operation. However, the company would have to secure a substantial amount of startup capital and conduct a successful 12- to 18-month trial run before beginning commercial production.

That business would utilize an existing structure, built only a year or two before the plant’s 2001 closure, to conduct its trial, Mr. Dolhof said.

Lawmakers were also able to tour the Northbrook Lyons Falls hydroelectric plant located right next to the old paper mill.

The plant’s owner, Kruger Energy, continues to talk of a large expansion project that would replace its aging turbines with new, larger ones, and the development corporation’s proposed demolition will provide better access to make that project possible, Mr. Dolhof said.

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